By Efrain Monterroso
As a first-generation graduate, I am grateful for my college experience, but at times found it difficult to navigate the higher education system. Although I have enjoyed most of my college life, there have been obstacles along the way.
Some barriers are necessary challenges that lead to professional growth, but others, like the edTPA, present barriers to teacher recruitment. This is disproportionately true for first-generation students and minority students like me. Many of these students are left behind because of a meaningless score that does not represent them as a potential educator.
EdTPA is a final portfolio project that supports a prospective teacher’s final year of college, and it discourages many students from continuing to teach or pursuing a teaching certificate. It’s even worse for those of us moving forward. We can’t wait to step into the classroom and start teaching our students – while paying tuition – but instead we’re pushed to our limits by having to spend countless hours outside of the classroom to meet the requirements of the edTPA.
The edTPA portfolio requires prospective educators to hold a lesson in an associate teacher’s classroom, videotape it, and evaluate their performance while answering questions to justify their choices and explain their reasoning at various times during the lesson. This portfolio takes the humanity out of the student teaching experience by requiring unrealistic expectations both pedagogically and logistically.
For many, teaching students is the first time they adjust to a full-time work schedule, map out a daily commute, take on a full teaching load, and navigate the fast pace of a school environment. . EdTPA takes away the opportunity to learn from these appropriate stressful experiences by taking the time and shifting the stress to successfully complete the edTPA.
Feeling comfortable alone in front of the class is hard enough for student teachers since this is their first time creating lesson plans, creating or acquiring materials, grading assignments, and managing a class. To add even more pressure, student teachers are regularly shadowed by their associate teachers, content specialists, principals and a methods specialist.
EdTPA is a project that takes an unjustifiable amount of time out of their students’ teaching experience. For example, student teachers are often taken away from their class to attend workshops that explain how to complete the portfolio rather than how to improve their pedagogy. It takes time to receive effective feedback from those who personally observe the performance of the future teacher.
The sad thing is that you would think that after spending months on a project leading to certification, the result would be much more than a number. Instead, all the student teacher receives is an empty score and generic comments. This is worth far less than the productive critiques we receive promptly from observers who enter our classrooms.
Colleges and universities already have support systems and mentors to ensure student teachers grow during their teaching experience. In-person mentors and observers mean more to us than a score from a third-party company.
New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would eliminate the edTPA as a requirement for prospective teachers. Please help bring humanity back to teacher education by contacting members of your state assembly to thank or encourage them to sign A-677. Your action will help ensure that there are diverse, engaged and equipped teachers on the ground to educate our future.
Efrain Monterroso is a Spanish teacher at Hightstown High School and a member of the East Windsor Education Association. He represents the Mercer County Education Association on the NJEA’s Congressional Contact Committee and is co-chair of the county’s Legislative Action Team and a member of the PAC Approvals Committee. He is a graduate of Montclair State University, earned his Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Spanish Secondary Education, and is a candidate for the Masters in Educational Policy and Analysis at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
TAKE ACTION: Tell the Assembly to remove edTPA
Write to your representatives in the New Jersey Assembly. Tell them to eliminate the edTPA as a requirement for getting a teacher’s license.